CS 261: Optimization and Algorithmic Paradigms

Winter 2016-17, Stanford University
Time: Tuesday, Thursday 3:00-4:20 pm
Instructor: Ashish Goel
Location: Education 128


Staff email list: cs261-win1617-staff AT lists.stanford.edu

Ashish Goel
Email: ashishg AT stanford DOT edu
Phone: 650 eight-hundred-fourteen 1478,
Office hours: Monday 5:15pm - 6:15pm. Location: Sriram 054.

Hongyang Zhang (TA)
Email: hongyz AT stanford DOT edu
Office hours: Wednesday 5pm - 7pm. Location: Huang B016

Kaidi Yan (TA)
Email: kaidi AT stanford DOT edu
Office hours: Tuesday 7pm - 8pm. Location: Lathrop Tech Lounge

Please use Piazza for general questions, and write to the staff email list for questions specific to you. Please use Gradescope for submitting HWs. You should have received the entry codes for both web-site via email -- if you join the class late, send us an email and we will send you the codes.


The first half of the class will use Linear Programming as a lens to study several classical problems: max-flow, matchings, min-cost flow and applications, game theory, and sequential decision making. We will then spend some time discussing sketching, an increasingly useful tool in algorithms design and its application, getting an introduction to Bayesian decision making, and exploring approximation algorithms. We will also see applications to market-design.
Please also check out last year's web page for a detailed exposition of the philosophy of this class.


75% of your grade will be based on 4 HW sets (released 1/19, 2/2, 2/16, and 3/2, and due two weeks from release). You will be asked to do the HWs in groups of 3 (or in exceptional situations, 2). Let us know if you need help forming a group. 25% of your grade will be based on the final exam, from 3:30-5:45pm on March 21st. We will also provide frequent exercise sets, which will be an essential part of the learning of the class, but not graded. You don't have to turn these in, but please do catch us during office hours or after class to ask any questions or discuss your answers if you have any doubts.
  1. Exercise 1
  2. HW 1. Handed out 1/19/2017; Due 2/2/2017
  3. A latex template
  4. Exercise 2
  5. Exercise 3
  6. HW 2. Handed out 2/3/2017; Due 2/16/2017
  7. Exercise 4
  8. HW 3. Handed out 2/17/2017; Due 3/2/2017
  9. Exercise 5
  10. HW 4. Handed out 3/7/2017; Due 3/17/2017
  11. Exercise 6